Canada's Rebecca Marino waves to the crowd as she walks off the court following her loss to Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during round of 16 play at the National Bank Open tennis tournament on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada’s Andreescu eliminated from National Bank Open in dramatic match

Canada’s Andreescu eliminated from National Bank Open in dramatic match

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu is out of the National Bank Open in Montreal, losing 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-1 to Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in a marathon third-round match Thursday.

The duo battled through two hotly contested sets before Jabeur, the No. 13 seed in the tournament, pulled away in the third, forcing Andreescu across the court with her unexpected returns.

Andreescu, the No. 2 seed, saved 5-of-11 break points across the match and Jabeur hit nine aces to secure her spot in the quarterfinals.

The match stretched out over nearly four hours, with two rain delays, two medical time outs and two hours, 39 minutes spent on the court.

Andreescu, a 21-year-old hailing from Mississauga, Ont., was looking to defend her title after winning the tournament, formerly known as the Rogers Cup, in 2019. The event was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jabeur will face either Danielle Collins or Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals on Friday. The two American qualifiers were set to meet in the round of 16 on Thursday night.

The boisterous crowd of about 5,000 erupted in applause with every point Andreescu scored, but a smaller contingent — many draped in Tunisian flags — eagerly voiced their support for Jabeur, too.

Jabeur was broken early in the first set but jumped out to a 5-3 lead, and Andreescu was forced to work her way back with a combination of powerful serves and smartly placed returns.

The tiebreak saw Jabeur send three balls into the net and attempt another return as she slid to the ground, sending a shot high and wide.

Andreescu appeared to win the set with a shot down the line before the chair umpire called for a review. The video replay showed the shot falling just wide.

A long return from Jabeur sealed the hour-long set. Each woman won two breaks and had an ace across the frame.

Andreescu took a medical timeout during the set break and appeared to receive treatment on her foot.

Heavy rain soaked the court midway through the second set, forcing an extended delay with Jabeur up 3-2 but Andreescu ahead 40-0 in the sixth game.

After the nearly hour-long break in play, Andreescu held her serve to pull even at 3-3.

It was a physical second set on both sides of the court, with both players making mad dashes to keep the ball in play.

A medical timeout forced another delay after Andreescu slipped and fell well below the baseline, apparently injuring her left foot. She stayed down on the court for several moments before getting up and limping to her chair where medical staff provided treatment.

After having her big toe taped up, the Canadian returned to the baseline to serve and quickly knotted the set at 4-4.

Another sprinkling of rain provided yet another delay, with ball boys and girls using towels to dry the court’s lines before play resumed and Jabeur took the second set.

Earlier on Thursday, Canadian Rebecca Marino saw her remarkable run at the tournament come to an end with a third-round 6-1, 6-3 loss to No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

The 30-year-old wild-card entry from Vancouver made it through to the round of 16 with upset wins over No. 16 seed Madison Keys and Spain’s Paula Badosa, the world No. 31.

“It didn’t matter who I was going to play. I just wanted to leave it all on the court and give it my best shot,” Marino, ranked 220th in the world, told reporters after the loss. “In my heart, I feel like I belong with these players, I belong at this level. And I feel the results demonstrated that. … I’m glad I got to show everyone how I play.”

High-level tennis isn’t new to the Canadian. She had a career-high No. 38 WTA ranking back in 2011, but stepped away from the sport for nearly five years to deal with depression.

She fell behind early in Thursday’s match with Sabalenka saving four break points to cruise to a 5-0 lead in the first set.

Sabalenka, the world No. 3, knew coming in that Marino serves well and tries to force her opponents wide. She also knew there was little on the line for the underdog.

“For her, it was nothing to lose today and the crowd was supporting her, so she kind of was in a good shape and good mood,” Sabalenka said. “So I was trying to not give her any opportunities to come back in the match or even to put any pressure on me. I was kind of aggressive from the beginning to the end.

“It’s dangerous to play against players who have nothing to lose.”

Marino came out strong in the second set with a pair of aces and held her serve through the first six games. But she struggled with break points, going 0-for-5 across the 59-minute match.

“I’m a little disappointed with today, but overall, if I look at the grand scheme of the week, I think there’s a lot of positives I can take from this experience and I’m really proud of myself,” she said.

Sabalenka will face No. 8 seed Aryna Azarenka, also of Belarus, in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The next round will also see Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo take on No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, and Italy’s Camila Giorgi battle No. 15-seed American Cori Gauff.

At the men’s tournament in Toronto, Stefanos Tsitsipas had a memorable 23rd birthday on Thursday.

The No. 3 seed celebrated the milestone with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov to advance to the quarterfinals.

The crowd wasn’t about to let Tsitsipas’ big day fade into the background after the win, serenading him with “Happy Birthday” as he was presented with a white sheet cake decked out with fresh fruit.

“The best feeling. One of the best feelings you can experience on a tennis court,” Tsitsipas, the world No. 3, said after the match. “I’m glad they remembered.”

The Greek tennis pro was dominant against Khachanov, saving both of his break points and winning 74 per cent of his total service points.

He’ll face Casper Ruud of Norway in the quarterfinals on Friday. The pair met at the Madrid Open in May, with Ruud taking a straight-sets victory in the round of 16.

Top seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia cruised into the next round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Australia’s James Duckworth Thursday. He’ll play the winner of a third-round matchup between No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz and Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, scheduled for Thursday night.

American qualifier John Isner beat No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia on Thursday and will face France’s Gael Monfils, the No. 11 seed, in the next round.

The quarterfinals will also pit No. 10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain against American Reilly Opelka.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press